Monday, October 27, 2014

News Briefs 10.27.14

Ferguson: Still a Thing That's Happening

By now I desperately hope we all know about the events surrounding Ferguson. I'm going to try to do my best to update us on what's happened in Ferguson since Mike Brown was killed. That sentence sounds very hesitant, but that's because so very much has happened.

In the first 12 days following the original shooting, 172 arrests were made in Ferguson, 132 of which were for "refusal to disperse." (I highly recommend reading that entire Amnesty USA report, because it's far more detailed than I could be here.) Police seem to be doing all that they can to stop people from protesting, from intimidation tactics to tear gas to Long Range Acoustic Devices.

Two other people have been killed: the first a seemingly mentally unstable man who either charged the police with a knife in the air or walked toward them slowly shouting for them to kill him. The second, a teenager who either shot at police first or was unarmed (these "or" discrepancies are caused by differences between official police reports and various witness testimony, I apologize for the ambiguity). Regardless of the circumstances, two more people have died and that's tragic.

Mike Brown's autopsy was leaked, though some believe the document was leaked to support the narrative of Darren Wilson's self defense.

A state senator—Jamilah Nasheed—was arrested for blocking traffic while protesting.

Even 75 days after the protests started, guns are still being trained on protesters. I would love to give more official sources of information on this, but social media has been playing an important role in keeping the public informed about Ferguson—and the point stands that without it there may never have been an issue made over Mike Brown in the first place.

These are only a sampling of the events still happening in Ferguson. The idea here is that this event is still happening—Ferguson should not be referred to in the past tense. If this event is going to be important, the public eye has to stay on it, even if it doesn't like what it sees. A final note:



Physiognomy is the Real Epidemic in America

Did you know that Renée Zellweger recently had plastic surgery done on her face?

If you have more than three functioning brain cells, you're probably thinking: "That's the most irrelevant and inconsequential piece of information I've heard since pumpkin spice oreos came out."

That's the proper reaction.

The NY Times recently posted an article that responds to people's response over her plastic surgery; it's titled "Why the Strong Reaction to [her] Face?"

That's exactly what I was wondering. I don't have many (or any) thoughts on this because, frankly, if being unable to care less were an Olympic sport, I'd be in the running for a gold medal right now. We need to get our sh*t together as a country. The fact that we're obsessing over one person's personal decision to have plastic surgery is symptomatic of our glaring superficiality (and, oddly enough, belies the image of America that the Amanda Knox story paints - see my "Currently Reading" for this week if you're confused). I'm writing my senior thesis on physiognomy in Victorian fiction and how pernicious it was to judge someone based on his/her appearance. Somehow, I'd like to think that physiognomy is a thing of the past, but when articles and quips about Renée Zellweger's face engulf my Facebook and Twitter newsfeed like wildfire, I can't help but lament the salient stagnancy in our "evolution" as a species. We're still as uncivil as ever, and that's never going to change. 

We have no respect for privacy, no empathy, and a raging obsession over how people look. Maybe if we stopped caring about and investing our energy into Renée Zellweger's face, we'd have found a solution to the Ebola epidemic by now. But, somehow, I don't think Ebola is the most pressing epidemic right now. We are.

-Alex Hajjar
                                     You Can't Edit Homelessness 

I moved into a five bedroom flat in San Francisco in January, 2004. All I owned at the time was a suitcase half-full of short skirts, tank tops, and knee socks. I also had a hundred dollars (or less) to my name. It was January, and it was cold. There were six of us occupying the flat, along with God knows how many mice (I'd trapped and killed them all. The following week, I'd become a vegetarian.). 
I got a job working for the Human Rights Campaign. At first, I thought it was an ideal job for a young queer of colour, but after one day of getting doors slammed in my face, I realized that it was a shitty job.
I became ill by the third week of working for the HRC. I’d developed a baseball size cyst on my tailbone, and it had become difficult to get around. I would have to have an operation before I could return to any kind of work. After recovery, I found myself jobless, penniless and with a huge hospital bill. I turned to family for help with my rent at first, and they helped as much as they could.
By June of 2004, I was in love and I was homeless. I’d come back from a trip to Ohio to find my belongings comfortably packed away into two garbage bags. My boyfriend called his mother for help, but she only allowed me to store my things at her home for a little while. I contemplated calling my parents and telling them that I had been unsuccessful in establishing a career in the East Bay. In retrospect, I had too much pride to swallow.
Our first night of homelessness was very somber. We sat in the parking lot of Jack in the Box, counting the petty change between us. I wanted something to eat, but my significant other needed drugs instead. He was addicted to a drug that was very hard to kick, however, we were homeless, and we didn’t have the funds to support his addiction. When you’re in the gutter with your lover, you realized the capacity of your compassion and patience. The motivation to help the one you love end their suffering becomes the main objective of the relationship for a while. He went to an outpatient rehab and that was the end of that.
We spent most of our nights awake, and walking around Downtown Berkeley until sunrise. In the daytime, we would sneak into his mother’s house while she was at work, and sleep for a few hours. By late September, I was still looking for a job. I’d been rejected so many times due to the fact that I didn't have a place of residence, or a phone number. Miraculously, my boyfriend’s best friend had just signed the lease on a two bedroom apartment, and offered us shelter. 
It was a blessing, but we still had to find a source of income. With both of us jobless and desperate, we made a bold decision to sell drugs. It was a huge gamble being that he was an (ex) addict, but at the time we had convinced our young selves that this was the only way to make fast money. And it was. It was the easiest money I had ever made. There was so much risk involved, and a lot of power. Because of our profession at that time, we attracted a lot of negative attention to the apartment. The place had a lot of traffic in and out, and a lot of unwanted guests that would get high and not leave. We managed to turn the apartment into a trap house, basically. By late December, our electricity was cut off because no one made it a priority to pay the light bill. We were eventually evicted a few days before Christmas for a long list of reasons. One being that we had allowed a meth addict (who’d stayed in a tent in our living room) to move into our apartment. She’d almost burned it down, twice.
Being homeless for the second time around wasn’t as bad. We stayed in tiny, cheap hotel rooms some nights. We continued to sell drugs for a while until I found out I was pregnant. I was twenty years old, and although I had nothing to my name, I decided I would keep the baby and try to turn my life around. Simply put, I was tired. I wanted something stable, and I knew I wasn’t going to make it very far in life if I continued to live this way. 
We found an apartment in Oakland, and soon after that I began doing secretarial work at a local hospital. I hadn’t spoken to my parents in about a year. In May, I called home. I remember my mother’s voice cracking into tears when she heard it was me. I wished her a Happy Mother’s Day, and that I had sent a card in the mail. I’d put a picture of my sonogram in it. The conversation I had with my mother was very heartbreaking. She’d told me that she looked for me everywhere, and that she thought I was dead. She kept telling me  that she loved me, and I felt guiltier each time she said it. I didn’t have the heart to tell her what I had put myself through. When she asked me where I had been for over a year, I told her, without elaborating, that I had been around. 


1 comment:

  1. I liked all of the articles and appreciate them.

    The Ferguson article- It's nice to know we are still compassionate human beings even here in mean New York. It's nice to know that we don't just care about ourselves and Ebola but those who are not shown, and suffering still too. It's doing something about it, and for that I applaud you.

    For the Physiognomy article: Thank you! I thought I was the only one who didn't care and didn't know about that actress's face surgery. I heard but wondered why didn't I care, or want to read about it. Glad to know that we're not all suffering from this epidemic.

    You can't edit homelessness.
    I was drawn in by the title, and then the rest of it. I liked it, I liked the voice of it, or the tone, of how you wrote it, and I just like reading about other people's lives so I found it interesting and brave of you to write and share it.